Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.
Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer. He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »
Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.
“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.
Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »
Bison farmers Bobbi and Allen with their daughter in front of the family-run farm. Photo: Dastina Wallace.
Bison farmer Bobbi Lester cares for the land with just as much passion and love as her father. As a little girl growing up on the ranch in southern Delaware, she remembers learning the ropes of bison farming, often traveling with him to regional and national bison conferences. When Bobbi Lester’s father, Robert Collins, lost his battle to cancer in 2012, Bobbi, along with her husband Allen, stepped up to continue farming the way he would have wanted—as a family.
Bobbi recalls how her dad started with just three heifers and a bull on 88 acres in Greenwood, Delaware, and grew into the herd of 65 bison.
“Because of the bison’s population decline 30 years ago, Collins originally planned to breed the bison,” said Bobbi. Read more »
Hezekiah and Francis Gibson’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA works with NRCS staff to help other small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources.
Lifelong farmer Hezekiah Gibson, and his wife Frances, farm 1,200 acres in Manning, South Carolina. They have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for years to improve conservation on their farm.
In 2013, the couple’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA―dedicated to helping small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources―received an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). These grants help NRCS support public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the Nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. Read more »
Little Wound School students hold round table discussions on their vision of the future. Tribal elder Cecilia Fire Thunder facilitated.
Recently USDA Rural Development staff in South Dakota spent two days at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux, where they met with Tribal leaders, educators and other Federal partners. They made this trip as part of a broader administration effort to change the way the federal government works with communities. This approach values residents’ knowledge of their communities’ strengths and needs; it also includes local leaders as essential partners and collaborators.
Jennifer Irving, Director of Regional Equity for Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, a local non-profit intimately involved in one-such effort at Pine Ridge said, “It is important to coordinate engagement of the Promise Zone stakeholders to ensure that Tribal Leadership’s vision and priorities are being met while optimizing Tribal commitment of time and resources.”
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USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour.
The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture – women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need.
That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed. Read more »